Noncommunicable diseases | Risk factors

Risk factors

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2/3 of the premature deaths from NCDs are linked to 4 unhealthy behaviours, or risk factorsThe 4 main NCDs are largely preventable through effective interventions tackling shared modifiable behavioural risk factors. Cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructed pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes are the leading cause of premature deaths in countries of the Eastern Mediterranean Region, responsible for 77% of all NCD deaths. Two thirds of these premature deaths are linked to 4 shared modifiable behavioural risk factors: tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol.

These unhealthy behaviours lead to 4 key metabolic/biological changes that increase the risk of NCDs: raised blood pressure, overweight/obesity, high blood glucose levels/diabetes, and hyperlipidemia (high levels of fat in the blood).

Risk factors for NCDs often begin early in life and continue through adulthood. However, evidence shows that both prevention and treatment interventions are necessary for reversing the NCD epidemic. The WHO Global NCD action plan is a road map with policy options to be implemented from 2013 to 2020 focusing on the 4 shared, modifiable behavioural risk factors that are linked to the 4 preventable NCDs.

Also important for reversing the NCD epidemic is the reduction of indoor and outdoor air pollution. Recent data show that high levels of air pollution are fueling the NCD epidemic. Consequently, it is now an additional risk factor that is being addressed in the action against NCDs. Outdoor and indoor air pollution is causing premature deaths and diseases from stroke, ischemic heart disease, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Click on the images to find out more about the risk factors and recommended actions

Tobacco risk factor
Unhealthy diet risk factor
Physical inactivity risk factor
Alcohol risk factor